Performance

The a6000 is a fast and responsive camera. All the controls react essentially instantly to any change you make and there haven't been any occasions on which we've found ourselves waiting for the camera to perform the requested task or be ready for the next task.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

There are three speeds available in continuous shooting mode, appropriately named low, middle, and high. Sony claims that the a6000 can reach frame rates of 2.5, 6, and 11fps, respectively. That last number is one of the best you'll find in the mirrorless world. And, for all three of those modes, the camera can continuously focus, which should make it quite capable at tracking moving subjects (see below for more on that).

The camera appears to always show the previously-shot frame, rather than trying to offer live-view between shots, but by the time you get to 11fps, it's quite hard to tell the difference.

Let's see how the a6000 performed in the high speed mode. We used a SanDisk Extreme Pro with a 95MB/sec write speed to ensure that we're getting the best out of the camera.

Timing
Large/Fine JPEG
Raw
Raw+Fine JPEG
Frame rate 11.4 fps 11.6 fps 11.5 fps
Number of frames 49 shots 22 shots 21 shots
Buffer full rate 2.3 fps 1.6 fps 1.1 fps
Write complete 20 secs * 11 secs ** 10 secs **
* After 58 shot burst
** After 30 shot burst

As you can see, the a6000 exceeds Sony's estimate by about 0.5 fps and can take quite a few shots before the buffer fills. The bad news is that the camera is 'locked up', meaning that you cannot enter the menus or playback mode, until 10 - 20 seconds have passed.

Autofocus

Sony placed great emphasis on the focus capabilities of the a6000 when we were briefed about the camera. Having heard many promises about on-sensor phase detection before, we took them with a reasonable amount of salt. Our skepticism has proven unnecessary, in this case - the a6000 is very, very good.

The camera's Lock-on focus system can be set to activate when you half-press the shutter (a great improvement over older implementations that required you to select and confirm the subject - missing valuable shooting time, if the subject was moving). The focus point selection mode defines the area in which the camera will look for a subject and it seems pretty good at working out what you're trying to shoot. It'll identify faces and people as likely targets or revert to shooting the closest item, if it doesn't find something more interesting.

Unlike the newer a77 II, the a6000 offers no controls over how persistently the camera will stick on the chosen subject (that option only exists for movie shooting). In our experience, this can be influenced by changing the autofocus point selection mode. If you manually specify a focus point using 'Flexible Spot' mode, the camera will refocus back to the originally specified point if the subject deviates off it for too long. However, using the 'Zone' or 'Wide Area' modes lets the camera be a bit more confident that it's following the correct subject, and will stay locked for longer.

Frame 1
Frame 2
Frame 3
Frame 4
Frame 5
Frame 6
Frame 7
Frame 8
Frame 9
Frame 10

These ten sequential frames were taken from roughly the middle of a sequence of 43 images, shot at a rate of 11 frames per second. All taken at 1/1600th seconds at F4, using the Sony FE 70-200mm F4 OS.

Not every frame is in perfect focus (two in this sequence are noticeably out-of-focus, another two fall short of perfect sharpness), but six of these shots are very well focused. In all, over 70% of the 43-shot sequence are usefully sharp, and still more are tolerably in focus.

This is a very impressive result for a camera at this price, especially when you consider that it hasn't slowed its shooting rate in order to achieve this level of accuracy.

As always, these results depend on a number of factors, including the lens used. We got similar results using the Sony ZA 16-70mm F4 OSS and the Sony FE 70-200mm F4 OSS, but the 70-200 gave us shallower depth of field, making it easier to assess and demonstrate the focus hit-rate. Results are much harder to judge with the 16-50mm powerzoom (since its slower maximum aperture offers more depth of field and it's never particularly sharp, making it harder to judge focus), but our impression was more missed shots as the rate of focus adjustment seems to be slower.

Battery Life

Sony's E-mount cameras have never offered particularly great battery life, since they rely on the relatively small NP-FW50. These are stated as offering around 7.7Wh, which translates as around 360 shots per charge, according to CIPA standard testing. This figure drops to 310 if you use the electronic viewfinder. These are competitive figures for the a6000's class, but it's worth bearing in mind that use of the power zoom, shooting movies and using the camera's Wi-Fi will significantly reduce the battery life.